Daily | Sundance 2014 | Desiree Akhavan’s APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR

'Appropriate Behavior'

‘Appropriate Behavior’

“Sometimes a film need not totally work in order to win you over,” begins Brent Simon at Paste. “Case in point: Appropriate Behavior, which heralds the arrival of a fresh talent in the form of multi-hyphenate Desiree Akhavan. Reminiscent of Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein’s Lola Versus, starring Greta Gerwig, Appropriate Behavior will draw some barbs as just another single-girl-in-the-city comedy, but it puts a wry spin on gender politics and Persian-American assimilation.”

Akhavan stars as Shirin, “sort of a tall, deep-voiced, gay version of one of Lena Dunham’s creations,” as Brandon Harris puts it at Filmmaker, “but there’s little tension in its sometimes awkward and narcissistic tale of a young Iranian-American woman who hides her lesbianism from her conservative parents and boorish brother while undergoing the emotional travails of a significant, perhaps doomed relationship. Watching it, one never much feels like Akhavan’s Shirin, whose bourgeois Iranian family is functional and willing to pay her Bushwick rent (the McKibbin lofts make for some fun, class-centric comedic fodder here), is in much danger, emotional or otherwise. And when she finally does tell her mother she’s gay, the moment doesn’t sizzle as much as it should.”

But for Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, Appropriate Behavior is “an enjoyably shrewd update to a potentially grating formula…. While hardly groundbreaking, Akhavan’s blend of cultural insights and sweetly relatable, self-deprecating humor provide a charming showcase for a new filmmaker worthy of discovery.”

“Akhavan is known chiefly as co-creator and star (with Ingrid Jungermann) of The Slope, a queer-culty web series about ‘superficial, homophobic lesbians’ in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood,” notes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. “And while her first feature lifts its flashback-laden assembly from Annie Hall (a bookstore scene is a direct homage), it’s perhaps not surprising that it remains tethered to the unambitious structural template and narrative choppiness of episodic television.”

Andrew Barker for Variety: “A sequence involving an attempted date with a gay-rights lawyer is so spectacularly ill-fated from start to finish that audience reaction evolves from laughter to fingers-over-eyes mortification and back again, each escalation deftly timed and structured. This is followed by a nearly wordless, and non-gratuitously explicit, threesome sex scene that subtly conveys Shirin’s out-of-her-element discomfort entirely through the blocking of the actors, without resorting to easy jokes or dramatic breakdowns.”

“Akhavan’s assembled a good supporting cast around her,” notes Beth Hanna at Thompson on Hollywood, “including Scott Adsit (30 Rock) as her perpetually stoned employer who gives her a job in a pre-Kindergarten filmmaking class; Halley Feiffer, as Shirin’s ditsy yet non-judgmental sidekick; and a very good Henderson, who realistically communicates Maxine’s frustration at Shirin’s reluctance to come out to her parents. Ahn Duong and Arian Moayed, who play Shirin’s parents, are also strong, neither caricatures of rigid traditionalism nor unrealistically upbeat about Shirin’s lifestyle.”

And “Rebecca Henderson, as Maxine, Shirin’s ex, is the perfect overly serious butch foil to whimsical, overly honest, yet still closeted, Shirin,” adds Katie Walsh at the Playlist. “Funny, unique, and entirely inappropriate, Appropriate Behavior is a supremely satisfying and irreverent take on the New York rom-com.”

Interviews with Akhavan: David Ehrlich (, Jason Guerrasio (, Indiewire, Dan Schoenbrun (Filmmaker) and Ramin Setoodeh (Variety). And Filmmaker‘s Scott Macaulay talks with cinematographer Chris Teague.

Updates, 1/31: “Unlike some Sundance premieres this year,” writes Alexandra Marvar at Cinespect, “Akhavan’s film more than gets away with prodding the farcical elements of living in Brooklyn. Making fun of hipster culture is plenty easy, but to be both comical and compelling, the quips need to be rooted in the characters’ emotional reality. In other words, you can’t toss out genuine for the sake of clever—Akhavan enviably achieves both.”

It’s “the perfect Iranian bisexual hipster coming-out comedy that you didn’t know you needed or even wanted,” finds Nathaniel Rogers.

Interviews with Akhavan: Eugene Hernandez (Daily Buzz), Danielle Lurie (Filmmaker) and Hillary Weston (BlackBook).

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